Leaving Mt Surprise I drove east heading for the coast, it’d been a while since I’d seen the ocean and I was looking forward to a cool change. Strange, I dug dirt in the dry heat at O’briens creek during the morning, then packed up and left about lunch time. Within a couple of hours I was in the Atherton Tablelands, things had changed from being hot sunny and dry, down to 15 degrees, wet and rainy with mist and fog with lush rain forest lining the road.
On the steep windy drive down to the coast I missed the camp I’d planned to stay at and ended up in Innesfail so quickly picked a caravan park on the ocean and headed there. What a mistake. Lovely location and all but I ended up on a very uneven tiny muddy site for $35 a night. The place is swarming with mosquitoes, there’s no phone reception, so no internet. After spending the last 10 days without internet I wanted to update this blog and catch up with goings on in the world, but alas. There was also no tv reception, another thing I thought I’d try after many weeks of no tv. Oh well, I plugged in the power cord but my batteries were already fully charged, I still had plenty of water so didn’t need that either, especially not if I was going back up into the table lands through those steep hills, best to travel light.
Still it is a very nice spot at the beach where the jungle is literally right on the beach, I also saw a cassowary early in the morning wandering around the park right next to my van but with my camera in the car, by the time I got there it had disappeared into the jungle. Here you can see some change rooms and toilets and although the building doesn’t look very old, the jungle has taken it over and it’s obviously not used any more.
Went exploring for my first day here and stocked up on supplies, then came back to camp to find that the invasion had begun. The other cramped sites around me were starting to fill up, but not just with grey nomads or other travelers but the worst thing possible, young family holiday makers. Oh yeah, the women with babies strapped to their backs and other young kids running around screaming and being shouted at while dad tries to show his prowess in setting up the obviously brand new matching tents. Yep, three lots of them with tents, large awnings and a huge marquee communal kitchen, and I hear talk of ‘the others coming tomorrow”. They must be camping on the other side of where am I camped guess. Joy.
I probably sound pessimistic and grumpy, and perhaps I am. But when you live in your van/motor home/bus/car/whatever, well it’s your home, it’s just normal day to day life. For holiday makers, they’re on holiday, a big adventure, fun, fun, fun. A few extra drinks for the adults while sitting around the fire late into the night, and hey let the kids have fun and make lots of noise, they are on holiday it’s all super exciting and different. Not a lot of thought for the fact that there are other people only a couple of metres away trying to go about their normal routines.
OK apologies to those with young families, everyone needs a holiday. I guess I’ve been spoilt by some beautiful large open camping areas which have been so peaceful. I should really stay out of the caravan parks as that’s what upset me more than the people. As it is, I left the park a day early not caring that I’d lost a days accommodation that I’d paid for. I drove back up towards the hills about 20km from town, back to the original campsite I’d wanted to stop at.
Now this is more my style, $5 a night and $2 extra if you want water, spacious flat sites with lovely lawn, it’s close to the hills near the national park and walk trails, good phone reception and there are no mosquitoes.
Wooroonooran national park is one of Queensland’s largest stretching from south of Innesfail almost all the way to Cairns, it covers some amazing rugged country in the wet tropics world heritage area, including 2 of the states highest peaks. The high mountains cause the moisture bearing winds coming off the ocean to drop their rain and it really drops, some areas around here have an average annual rainfall of 8m, receiving up to 12m of rain in heavy years. Much of the national park is inaccessible and once you walk some of the trails or drive one of the small tracks which are available, you’ll understand why the park is left inaccessible.
It’s extremely rugged country and with such a heavy rainfall, maintaining roads and walk trails is no simple thing. The trails I’ve walked around here have all been very muddy, you have to be extremely careful walking these trails because of the slipperiness and because in many spots there are steep drop offs down deep valleys on the side of the trails.
Muddy boots, wet rocks and tree roots make for a slow and careful walk, there are many small creek crossings as well, nothing like jumping from one wet rock to another wet rock when you have slippery muddy boots.
But the rain forest here is certainly beautiful. I had been concentrating so hard on looking at the trail most of the time, looking where each step was going. It’s only when you stop, look listen and absorb everything around you that you get a true feel for the forest and it’s inhabitants.
There are many different birds but the forest is so thick that it can be hard to see them. I saw butterflies bigger than many birds fluttering around through the trees but I couldn’t get a photo of them, they didn’t want to stop near any of the walk trails I was on. There were small marsupials darting around the undergrowth, from what I’ve read I’m thinking they were bandicoots rather than rats but i can’t be sure, they were pretty quick. Lizards, man they were quick, they would find spots where the sun shines through a gap in the canopy onto the ground and they’d sun them selves, but you couldn’t get within 30m or so and they’d dart off. Of course where the sun hits the forest floor you’d also get snakes. I saw 2 and heard many others. There’s a distinctive sound to a snake slithering away through undergrowth and you can’t mistake it for anything else. Of course there are some animals who shouldn’t be here as well, I saw a lot of evidence of these guys.
There were some lovely fungi around when you slowed down and looked closely in the forest.
I really have no idea what this thing is. I think it may be a flower of some sort rather than a fungi, it looks like there are small flowers around the outside lip of it where the insect is.
The rain forests here are actually classified as a “vine” rain forest, which makes so much sense, there are more vines than trees. Any given tree within the forest may have a dozen or more vines growing up it, most grow in harmony with the tree, some like the strangler fig can eventually kill it’s host tree, though the strangler fig is a little different as it grows from up within the tree where birds deposit seeds, sending roots down to the ground slowly enveloping the tree.
There are also many epyphytic plants growing on the trees. Looking up into the canopy you can see massive epyphytes that the poor tree has to support on it’s branches. Here’s a tree in a park within the town covered in small epyphytic plants, a vast assortment of ferns and orchids all growing on the tree, getting all of their requirements from within the trees branches.
All in all the town of Innesfail is quite nice, big enough to have everything you need yet also small enough that it hasn’t lost it’s rural roots. The town is built on sugar cane and bananas grown in the deep fertile soils and tropical fruits up here are plentiful and cheap.
Tomorrow I leave for the Daintree. I’d been tossing up whether I should leave the van here and just drive up in the car staying in a motel or similar while I’m there, after all I can leave my van here for $5 a day. Still with the cheapest reasonable accommodation up there being well over $100 a day I may as well take the van, I’ve spotted a place at Cape Tribulation right on the beach which is $15 a night for an unpowered site. Yes, I’ll need to be back in a caravan park again as there’s not a lot of choice. Of course there’s little in the way of phone reception up that way so I’ll have no internet again, oh well. With some luck I might even get the fishing gear out, seeing that I’m taking the van I’ll be able to cook up any fish I get.